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Horticultural Industry

Volume 463: debated on Monday 28 March 1949

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. BALDWIN:

57. To ask the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the anxiety amongst farmers as to the future of the horticultural industry caused by recent trade agreements, he will make a statement as to the Government's long-term policy.

On a point of Order. May I have your guidance in regard to this Question, Mr. Speaker? In view of the alarm in the horticultural industry by reason of the trade agreements which have been made, I addressed this Question to the Prime Minister, since it involves a Government decision and not a Departmental one.

The reply to the Question is that when the Agriculture Act, 1947, was under consideration by this House, I referred to horticultural products and said:

"I want to make it clear that it is the Government's intention that the general objective in Clause I shall apply to the industry as a whole, and that they fully recognise that other means of obtaining this object for these other products must be devised."—[OFFIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1947; Vol. 432, c. 631.]
I have nothing to add to that statement.

In view of that answer, will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the leaders of the horticultural industry and assure them that the intention is not to make trade agreements for the import into this country of produce which we can still grow ourselves at reasonable cost?

We are frequently in consultation with the leaders of the horticultural industry.

Does not the Minister consider that when, through faulty guesswork on the part of his colleague, the Minister of Food, farmers have to plough in their crops, he ought to have a policy for compensating them?

The hon. Member must be aware, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, that no Minister or Ministers can ever cater for weather conditions. He will also be aware that last year was an abnormal one, and that if in 1948 we had obtained the same amount of produce as we had normally obtained for a number of years, there would have been no surplus vegetables in this country.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the Prime Minister that he is being compelled to accept certain imports which he does not require?

In view of all that is happening to the horticultural industry, is the right hon. Gentleman still on speaking terms with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Food?

Will my right hon. Friend say whether there is any attempt at specialisation in production between Great Britain and the foreign countries from whom we import horticultural produce?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my Evesham growers are suffering exceptional hardships?